Priorities?

May 8, 2008

NMI Museum of History & Culture in Trouble

Rob Hunter, executive director of the NMI Museum of History and Culture, told the Marianas Variety that the museum was in terrible financial straits. This is the only state museum in the Marianas. According to Rob:

“Before, the museum gets about $500,000 a year but now we have zero funds to operate on,” he added. “We have no money to pay telephone bills and utilities and buy even basic needs like light bulbs, fuel, and toilet tissue.”

Hunter said they maintain one old donated pick-up truck that needs constant repair.

Lately, he added, museum staffers have been using their own cars and paying for their own gas to run errands.

They also report for work on Saturdays on a volunteer basis, he said.

Their major concerns, according to Hunter, are their air-conditioning system, parts repair for the museum generator and major roof leakage."

Rob explained that the museum needs air conditioning to protect valuable, delicate artifacts that were accepted from the military, public, and museums on the government's behalf. He said that the museum has an obligation to protect the historical artifacts.

How can the CNMI government spend money on a lobbyists while allowing precious artifacts to rot from mold and mildew?
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National Marine Park















I wonder if Fitial wrote the letter to President Bush voicing opposition to the creation of a national marine monument in the northern islands. Maybe his new lobbyist wrote it. Yesterday the Saipan Tribune reported that Fitial's new lobbyist, Fleishman-Hillard was already writing letters on behalf of the CNMI:

"He said the firm had helped the governor in drafting the letters he sent to U.S. senators and representatives recently. The letters asked for the lawmakers' support for money to offset the impact of the wage increases."

The letter Governor Fitial wrote to the president stressed the economic interests of the CNMI.
The Saipan Tribune revealed some of the content of the letter that Fitial sent to President Bush:

"He is also concerned that the designation would restrict the indigenous people's ability to fish and conduct related activities in the proposed site. “We rely on fishing as a source of food and jobs. Those who live in the CNMI have no interest in ceding their cultural heritage to the federal government under the auspices of environmental protectionism,” he said.

The governor argued that the Commonwealth is looking at fishery as an economic growth engine to replace the declining garment and tourism industries. He said the loss of about 115,000 square miles of ocean area due to inclusion in a national monument would significantly impact this economic effort."

This Saipan Tribune story revealed more of the letter:

According to the governor, the CNMI is seeking to develop a commercial longline fishery industry.

“Fishing and related activities are intrinsically intertwined with our culture and economy — present and future. We rely on fishing as a source of food and jobs. Those who live in the CNMI have no interest in ceding their cultural heritage to the federal government under the auspices of environmental protectionism,” the governor told the president.

“The CNMI is working to expand its fishing fleet to fill the vacuum in its narrow economic base due to the recent closure of the garment industry and the contraction of tourism,” Fitial added.

“The lost of about 115,000 square miles of ocean area due to inclusion in a National Monument would significantly impact this developing fishery and the economy of the CNMI.”

I still think that this opposition is connected to protecting the interests of Luen Thai Fishing Ventures as I wrote previously in this
post . The governor himself stated that the garment industry was in decline, and Tan has shifted his interest to fishing.

In the past, the CNMI and garment industry have shared lobbyists. Where did the $25,000 to pay the new lobbyist come from? Someone should check this out!

For more information and views on the National Marine Monument read this post from the Saipan Writer,
this post from Angelo Villagomez, and this post by dengre of the Daily Kos.


Photos by W.L. Doromal ©2007

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